Members questions and Officer clarification included:
i. It was acknowledged that a small minority of applicants that needed assistance and based on the previous applications there was support in place to assist those from family members and professionals.
ii. Where additional support was needed, processes were in place to ensure those customers logged their details within the 3 month window so that their priority date was secured.
iii. Communication was in place on customers accounts when they logged in to Kent Home Choice, the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) website and information sent directly to customers via email. Officers agreed that other methods of communication could be considered if it was felt necessary.
iv. It was advised that Dover District Council had already agreed to the suspension of their housing register however not all districts were implementing a new allocation scheme.
v. It was thought that there was a possibility of a reduction in the number of applicants to the housing register if applicants had chosen not to reapply.
vi. The priority date was retained for customers that applied If applicants reapplied within the 3 month period. Reminders were scheduled to be sent during this time and customers that did not reapply within that timeframe would lose their priority date. If there were exceptional circumstances as to why a customer did not reapply Officers would consider this on an individual basis and customers needed to provide evidence as to why they did not reapply within the 3 month window.
vii. Officers advised that if they relied on original applications where a lot of that data could be out of date, therefore part of the reason for customers to reapply was to ensure applications can be assessed against the new application scheme with up to date data.
viii. One of the changes that was made with the allocation scheme was the different factors for applicants to be placed into different bands therefore, an existing applicant who reapplied may potentially go into a different band which gave them a quicker prospect of being successful with an allocation.
ix. There was no link for the allocation scheme in the report as the report before Members was focused on the temporary suspension of the housing register and the recommendation for applicants to reapply. The proposal was for the new allocation scheme which was approved by Cabinet to go out for consultation. The consultation was completed in January 2023 with minor changes made within the delegation by Cabinet. The intention was for the new allocation scheme to go live at the same time as the transfer to the new housing system.
x. It was advised that once the new allocation scheme went live it was not possible to enter every customers details in on the same day, that would put some customers at a disadvantage with some being assessed under the old allocation scheme and others under the new allocation scheme. Therefore, customers were asked to reapply while the housing register was suspended for processing time to be allowed.
xi. It was confirmed that support was available for customers to be operated out of The Amelia, details of this were to be finalised.
1. That subject to the additional points raised at the meeting being addressed, the recommendations to Cabinet as set out in the report be supported.
a. That vulnerable people can be tracked down and contacted to ensure they are assisted in reapplying.
b. The new allocation scheme linked into the report in some way.
c. Consideration of extending the 3 month period.
d. Important that it’s noted that there was a reason why the process cannot be done in a different way as it would put some people at a disadvantage.
e. Agree to write to customers as well as email, messaging on website and Kent home choice and messaging within the Amelia.